A basic dental kit sent out to Egypt by the Sidmouth-based Donkey Sanctuary has already begun to save donkeys' lives; ironically the kit costs more than a donkey.
The current market value of donkeys is less than the dental kit, which costs £570. As a comparison, a young donkey can be bought for as little as £70 whilst the maximum an Egyptian White Ass will fetch is just £300. The basic dental kit includes three dental rasps and blades, a head torch and mouth gag.
During a recent trip to the country, filming for the charity's new commemorative 40th anniversary DVD, Dawn Vincent from the press office was able to see how the dental equipment came to the rescue of donkeys at a village regularly visited by one of the charity’s mobile treatment clinics:
"We were following Shabaan's team (he's one of the vets) during a visit to Meet Kenana. Soad was a particular donkey I remember who was brought in by her owner Mohammed; I was really shocked. She was the thinnest donkey I have ever seen, and Mohammed claimed she hadn't been eating for two weeks. At first, I felt quite angry with him but l soon realised from the look in his eyes that he was beside himself with worry."
There are three million donkeys in Egypt and they provide everyday transport for millions of people living below the poverty line. The Donkey Sanctuary believes no donkey should suffer unnecessarily in their work so advice is given to donkey owners on improving husbandry, and free veterinary treatments are provided to their donkeys.
Dawn watched with anticipation as Soad was put through the clinic's standard health checks: "It became clear during the initial inspection by Shabaan that Soad's teeth were in a terrible condition and were likely to be the cause of her not eating. Fortunately this mobile clinic had just received the new dental kit from the Sanctuary in Sidmouth and Shabaan got straight to work rasping her teeth."
Donkeys, whether in the UK or abroad, should have their teeth checked at least annually to prevent dental problems. Sharp dental overgrowths are common but sometimes can cut the cheeks and the tongue and cause oral pain. In cases of severe dental disorders, as seen in Soad's case, decreased food intake and possibly inefficient food digestion eventually occurs, leading to weight loss.
Dawn continues: "Just minutes after, Soad was given a clump of fresh greens and she was simply ravenous and didn't leave anything to waste - it was her first meal in weeks and it was most satisfying to see her happier. She was also given a dose of wormer, treated for some minor wounds and the farrier trimmed her feet. Mohammed seemed quite stunned by the treatments his donkey received. The team advised him about her to help her recovery.
The dental equipment was needed to support the charity's expansion work in the country where there are now three fully operational mobile treatment clinics, providing a minimum of 65,000 free treatments to working donkeys each year. The project is funded entirely by donations sent to the Sanctuary by the British public.
The Donkey Sanctuary employs two full time dental technicians in the UK to provide the necessary dental care to thousands of resident donkeys cared for on its 10 farms in the UK and Ireland.